The sadness I instinctively feel is about the collateral damage. The referendum campaign has done more to polarize the public than I can remember any other campaign - general elections included - managing. Harsh words have been spoken, and spoken too frequently. A voice has been given to the ugly, poisonous and debilitating right wing. Racist opinions, only thinly veiled as economic concerns, have been lent some credibility and dragged a little closer to the mainstream of British politics. In a parallel with the Trump situation, however, this does not represent a deception - and here lies the root of my sadness - it represents a belief system which sits squarely within - and perhaps at the heart of - the psyche of the mob (sorry, I meant to say 'the public') mentality.
Watching from a distance (and genuinely ambivalent about most of the issues under discussion), one truth seemed to emerge from all the noise. That truth was this: nobody can predict the future. Nobody knows what will happen after this result, and nobody ever could have known - the best that anyone could reasonably offer were guesses (some more educated than others). Nevertheless, these guesses have been presented as immutable facts; facts which you chose to believe or dismiss depending upon your perspective - it seems that there was no room for middle ground. At times, downright lies were presented as facts, and these too were believed or dismissed. Once people perceive information as the truth, it's very hard to de-polarize them, and this, I fear, will be the long-term fallout from this process.
I have no idea how 'Brexit' (I hate that non-word) will impact the world economy or, for that matter, Britain's economy - and it seems that few people know. I care about this issue because I know a great many people who live there, and some of those people I like very much, or even love. So, it matters to me. However, I can't predict the future any more than can a blonde, tousle-haired public school buffoon with a slender grasp on reality and a knack for making a fool of himself. The economic forces will move onward as always, making the rich richer and the poor just poor enough to do as they're told, while being grateful for the crumbs that are thrown to them. The world will turn in the same direction, and - unless that doomsday asteroid hits - life will go on. That's where any semblance of certainty ends. Anything else - and I include my own projections - is guesswork. My guesses, though, make me fear for Britain's health as a nation.
Anyone who thinks that Britain has regained her 'independence' (by the way: independence from what, please?) is ignoring the fact that no nation can operate outside the global marketplace. No nation can succeed in isolation; every nation seeking to succeed must cooperate and find compromises with its neighbours, or else retreat into a lonely darkness (see: Russia).
The idea of the good ship Britain sailing stormy economic waters and sweeping all before her is, frankly, laughable. Colonial 'great'ness is an anachronism, and entirely irrelevant in the nuclear age. Britain will never again be 'great' in that sense (good job, too - colonialism tends to be a very, very ugly business), yet this golden lie has been dangled before and ultimately sold to a disenchanted public against a background of long-held and festering grumbles about almost every facet of modern life in an 'austerity' economy (an austerity which, of course, only really hurts the relatively poor). The needy public wants to hear promises which allow them to look forward to their individual futures, and such tactics, especially when coupled with xenophobic and at times openly racist scare tactics, touch the requisite nerve. A once-again 'Great Britain' is nothing more than a fantasy - and a fool's fantasy at that.
Much as Trump has pulled the blanket away from a groundswell of racist, hate-filled, ill-informed and over-simplified reactionary public opinion in his monumentally fucked-up country, so Boris Johnson and his colleagues have succeeded in raising the profile of politicians who would hold power by reason of the fear of difference, and of the unknown. Fear and hate have become political commodities in a land where reason has traditionally triumphed. This strategy of scaring the public and making vacuous promises has little or no substance to bolster it; it constitutes meaningless, blustering (and often dishonest) rhetoric without detailed policy ideas or workable social goals to follow it. It is, in short, bullshit which takes the electorate precisely nowhere in the real world. Feeling better about the future is one thing, but feeling better about the future without a clue how to make it happen is simply delusional. The people might just as well pop a pill (blue, or orange?) and cut out the political bullshit. As a campaign strategy forced upon the public by a group of politicians unable to agree who should hold the reins of power, this is a damning legacy, and one which the Conservative party should be - for ever - made to acknowledge and pay for.
It may take years for British society to recover - or maybe decades. Maybe longer, maybe never. What seems very likely now is the emergence an independent Scotland, with the possibility of Wales and/or Northern Ireland following suit. If so, so be it - self-determination, after all, is not a bad thing. What is also likely, however, is a relentlessly polarized voting public and political system, the strength of the politics of fear requiring an even stronger reactionary ideology to break the power stranglehold. Fear, suspicion and hate will persist and fester to poison the old democracy which still hangs on by its fingernails at present. British society (if, of course, the concept of 'British' continues to exist) will feel less safe after the mob has gained a foothold.
The decision to leave the European Union is not the problem. Life will continue largely as before. The much, much bigger long term issue that faces my old, beautiful, wonderful-in-so-many-ways country is the fallout from this unnecessary debate. The deception and abuse of the voting public by power-obsessed politicians, and the damage that they have wrought, is a hurt from which my old home may never recover. The people deserve much, much better than this.
May history shame the bastards who merely pretend to lead for the common good.